Canuck fever hits the streets of Hope

When the Canucks edged past the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, that was Ed Stephens’ signal to break out the full regalia for his ‘99 Chevy Tahoe.

Hockey fan Ed Stephens has broken out the big flags

You can be forgiven if your mind is still in hockey mode: winter is still lingering in the hills — and doesn’t the brisk breeze make the flag flutter a little firmer?

The Canucks flag, that is.

When the Canucks edged past the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, that was Ed Stephens’ signal to break out the full regalia for his ‘99 Chevy Tahoe.

You may have seen him parading downtown last Thursday, hanging a broom out of the window to signal an impending sweep of the Nashville Predators.

Saturday’s overtime loss has now relegated the broom to the closet until at least the next round.

You won’t hear a honk out of the Tahoe, though, as its horns developed laryngitis during last Tuesday’s victory lap around town after the Chicago win.

“I headed downtown after the game,” said Stephens. “There were about nine or ten cars parked by the big bear and they all backed out and followed me, mostly guys from the 16 to 24 crowd, honking horns and hooting it up.

“My horns are blown now,” he said with a playful frown. “They’re down to a ‘meep, meep.’ I’ve got a train horn I could use — but I’ve got to do some work on it.”

Stephens’ previous truck took a hit for the team too, during the ‘94 Stanley Cup final game.

“We were living in East Van at the time and I headed down to Granville Street. I had my window down and a guy jumped up on my running boards and had his fingers in the window gap on the door. He was leaning out and he pulled my door apart! I had to push him off and get out of there.

“Within hours, they were walking on trolley wires and burning police cars. You’ve gotta hope this town never gets to be like that!”

Stephens traces his hockey addiction back to his early days with the Vancouver Fire Department.

“I joined the force in 1977 and every fire station had a TV with the channel stuck on the hockey channel.”

He also credits the VFD for teaching him how to behave when the game turns sour.

“We were at our daughter Tracy’s for Easter this year — and it was ‘firehall language’ when Chicago scored in overtime,” said Stephens.

Despite his true-blue Canucks roots, Stephens confessed that he has only ever been to about three of their games.

“We went to a few when our kids were growing up,” he said. “But even then, by the time you went to a restaurant — even McDonald’s — then paid for parking at the PNE, it was almost $400 for the evening.

“That’s when I went out and bought my big screen TV.”

On the other side of the coin, local realtor Rob Pellegrino figured his family had had enough of the televised experience: he would treat them all to Game One of the first round.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the opening playoff game, ever since I started watching hockey when I was young,” said Pellegrino. “I wanted to go as a family  — but five tickets… next to impossible.

“Tickets went on sale on the Saturday prior to the game and we had four cell phones, two land lines and two computers going, but like everyone I talked to we had no luck.

“I know they release a second batch closer to the game, so I tried again. This time success, on the first try. I couldn’t  believe it! Five tickets in the upper blue, on the blueline. I bought without double-checking.

“Wow! Expensive! And we were practically touching the ceiling — but we had tickets to Game One.

“You see and hear ‘O Canada’ on TV but to be there live raises the hair on the back of your neck,” added Pellegrino.

“It was just electric in the rink. We were all given Canuck towels on our seats to start the game. The sea of white towels waving was quite something to see.

“We were in the top section, where the real fans are!” said Pellegrino. “There were a lot of characters in the stadium and on the streets. It’s great to see all the car flags and jerseys around, in the city and in Hope.”

Flag-waver Stephens said he’s working on a plan to share his love of the game, bringing his satellite receiver, sound system and video projector to Coopers grocery store for game nights, so the matches can be projected on a white tarp on an outdoor wall.

“Not in the pouring rain, though,” he added. “I’m not that much of a fan.”

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